Rugby: when parliamentarians play their own World Cup

France not only hosts the Rugby World Cup, it has also been the host of global clashes between parliamentary teams

Rugby: when parliamentarians play their own World Cup

France not only hosts the Rugby World Cup, it has also been the host of global clashes between parliamentary teams. Eight teams met in the South West at the beginning of September: France, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, South Africa. And for the first time, a multinational selection from the European Parliament joined this competition with rules adapted for veterans.

Only one player under 35 was tolerated per team. Parliamentary assistants and assembly officials are allowed to enter the fray so that elected officials do not have a monopoly on the oval ball. A privilege of age, veterans wear distinctive shorts to signal that tackles cannot be made on their person. “There were no serious injuries,” reports MEP Pascal Durand, captain of the European team.

Mixed teams were allowed. However, this point of the regulation has caused some disputes. Indeed, England and South Africa refused to play against teams including women. These two teams cited problems related to their insurance. In the event of injury to women, their insurance would not cover them. “To get around this difficulty, we therefore formed two groups of four teams, one with mixed teams and, in the other, we included England and South Africa and two other teams to which the non -mixture was not a problem,” says Pascal Durand.

Needless to say, the defending champion New Zealanders took this competition very seriously. They had no intention of missing out on the World Parliamentarians. Like the pros, on September 2, in Toulouse, on the pitch of the Stade Ernest Vallon, the New Zealand XV performed an impressive haka. Bad surprise for the European Parliament team: the size of the players aligned by the New Zealand Parliament does not at all correspond to the standard of a team of deputies or senators. New Zealand boasts fifteen malabars, sharp players who, through their physical condition and sense of the game, surpass everything that the old parliamentary rugby can hope for!

" We understand. They sent us the security guys from their Parliament, so police officers and soldiers, grumbles Pascal Durand, whose team concedes eight tries… A memorable mess. “In addition, the New Zealanders had left nothing to chance,” he continues. They had traveled to Europe well in advance and trained in France. Nothing to do with the Argentinians who had arrived at 6 a.m. and were still jet-lagged when they entered the field. »

For their second group match, the European parliamentarians then faced the French parliamentarians. They also lost but the French advantage was less clear. Australia finished, in the third group match, relegating the Europeans to last place in the group. From then on, the European XV faced the last team from the other group to compete for the last two places in the tournament. In this case, the English.

There is no question of losing face after the Brexit dispute. The Europeans absolutely had to win. But the difficulty of non-mixing reared its head again. For the English, there was still no question of facing the three women appearing in the European selection. The players therefore remained on the sidelines. “And out of solidarity, the three MEPs that we were also decided not to play this match,” explains Pascal Durand.

But honor was saved: the English were beaten and picked up the wooden spoon. “They sent us deputies and lords who played well but they were old,” comments Pascal Durand, very happy to have sounded the European anthem in Ovalie. The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola did not make the trip. On the other hand, the President of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, came to Sarlat (Dordogne) to encourage the French XV.